Posts Tagged ‘special needs dental’

Patience and Foortitude, Part 4: Why Surprises Make Me Cringe, With Surprise Special Guest

It isn’t foortitude that is driving me to stay up late and post something tonight. Nope, it is the sheer blood-rushing, pulse-racing nervous energy, left over from a week full of surprises.

The day I got back from the hospital, 24 hours after having my 3rd child, I was up sweeping the floors and cleaning up the kitchen. I had plenty of help from my husband and our moms but I was taking no chances . Our current, much larger and totally ancient UWS apartment had been more bug-friendly than our previous residence, and by October I was suffering a little PTSD from a summer of killing bugs, sweeping floors and scouring kitchens. Then, winter came and blissfully wiped any trace of creepy-crawlies from Manhattan. I still maintained my nightly cleaning routine before bed, vowing to keep our home insect-free.

So you can imagine my surprise this past Tuesday when I got home from my first date night since the baby was born (you can turn your husband’s work events into dates if you’re desperate enough), flipped on the kitchen light, and interrupted a small dinner party going on in my kitchen. My husband slept in the next room, blissfully unaware as I went into a frenzied attack on the little critters, cleaned the entire apartment top to bottom, and then stayed up until the wee hours researching non-toxic but painful roach killers (and new potential apartments).

Two days and several boric acid treatments later I was feeling mildly reassured (as long as the kitchen light stayed on all night) when – SURPRISE – a huge waterbug lazily, antagonistically crawled down the wall in our front hallway. Ryan was at work so it was all up to me (dammit!) again. After spraying the scary, scary bug thoroughly with bleach-based foaming toilet cleaner I gently tossed a long-neglected college textbook on top of it and gave a couple of carefully-placed stomps for good measure.

And just like that the bugs are back. It has come to the point where I turn on a light, wince, glance around the room, and then creep in for whatever I need, hoping nothing lunges out at me from a small crack or crevice I missed with the Windex. Who can live this way? I wasn’t really scared of bugs in the past, even roaches, though they grossed me out. It has been since my children were born that this irrational and uncontrollable fear has gripped me, kind of in the same way that James grips me when we come into contact with balloons.

So today was our appointment at the MLK Dental Center. If you remember my post about the ridiculous ordeal of making an appointment with them on the phone, you can easily imagine the trepidation I felt trekking up to the Bronx with all 3 kids, including one very nervous 10 yr old. We were going to MLK Dental to have James evaluated for sedation. It had been more than 3 years since he had been admitted and put under general anesthetic for his last routine dental work (in VA).

Since that time we had brought him to our family dentist in NYC for 2 sets of dental xrays (due to falls) and more than 5 failed appointments, where the dentist would work with James for a few minutes and then quickly give up as his loud screams interrupted patients down the hall. Finally, she recommended taking James somewhere in NYC where we could put him under again.

Though I braced myself as we approached MLK Dental, it was still a huge surprise as we walked into the waiting room/ reception area. It resembled a DMV more than a doctor’s office, let alone a pediatric or special needs environment. There was a line of 6 people waiting to check in for their appointments and a dozen more scattered around the waiting room. James was already doing his “fake-yawn-trying-not-to-cry-in-front-of-anyone” thing and my 10 month old was screaming his head off. Next to me an angry woman screamed “shut up or I’m gonna whup you” repeatedly at her own two young children while they bickered loudly with each other. The metal grated chairs were painted pale green and resembled something you would see in an old bus station – you know, the kind that are bolted together in threes? Many of the instructions and advertisements were in Spanish and I was being stared at as if I had stumbled into a private party.

I resisted the urge to bolt and waited in line. We were 45 minutes early after taking 2 subways and walking 6 blocks and I feared that we would be waiting all day in this dental clinic. I felt embarrassment well up inside of me as my 10 month old continued bawling, disappointment that this was the best my insurance could provide for my special needs child, and anxiety that I would never make it through the appointment with all 3 kids, let alone poor James.

A very pleasant receptionist took my paperwork and insurance card. She handed me a pile of papers and as I sat down to fill out the small novel several other patients entertained the babies for me while James read a book. Upon turning everything in I was given a buzzer that resembled what you would get at Shake Shack while waiting for your order. My number was 14. I asked 13, a young woman with a toddler, about how long she had been waiting. “Over 2 hours,” was her reply.

Dear God! I resumed my silent debate about cutting my losses and going home while the kids played pleasantly with their new friends. And then, miraculously, our buzzer went off. After only 15 minutes. We went up to the next floor to what looked like a dingy apartment building and were greeted by one of the best dentists in the entire world.


How often do you get to say “surprise” in such a sincerely excited way? We were greeted by a polite, soft-spoken, interested, gentle doctor and brought into a teeny-tiny apartment-sized dental office full of other amazing dental professionals. It was like warping into the new, brightly-colored Mario world after spending some time in the dungeon level with Bowser. Within 5 minutes of asking me pertinent medical history, James was ushered into a room for evaluation. Because there was no room inside for me or the babies, we stood in the hallway while an unknowing nurse wrapped a pressure cuff around James’s arm. She told him she was going to check his muscles. Within 2 seconds of hearing this I realized what was happening, but by the time he began to get worked up she was done. Done!!! For those of you reading this with your mouths hanging open, I wouldn’t believe it myself except for I was there. James got his blood pressure taken for the first time in over 8 years without a complete breakdown. I think I checked with three different people to make sure I wasn’t dreaming. He didn’t actually get upset until the cuff was tightened but by then it was almost over – usually all he needs is to see the machine and he runs out of the room screaming.

The dental exam was also shocking in its success. The dentist and her attending were calm, friendly, matter-of-fact and effective. James, without sedation of any kind, was led through most of a regular cleaning with minimal tears and screaming. James left the dentist feeling proud and happy – where did these people come from!? The worst part of the entire appointment was finding out that I would have to call all over again (see my last post on MLK Dental) for another appointment in 6 months, but being on hold will be (almost) totally worth it to bring James back to this diamond in the rough!

I’d like to hold on to these rare, unbelievably special moments. Surprises like these make me think that good things can happen at any moment, even when I am least expecting them. It’s such a great way to approach the day (unlike the way I had approached MLK Dental in general).

When we got home I unloaded the groceries into the kitchen and noticed some coffee grinds spilled on the counter. Humming, I went to wipe them up until I recoiled in horror as I realized that my kitchen had been taken over by tiny ants (thank you, next door neighbors) while we were gone. SURPRISE!



Shame on you, Martin Luther King Jr. Health Care Center and BronxCare Dental

If you saw me outside today with a sour look on my face, kicking the curb when the stroller wouldn’t go up, muttering to myself about people taking up too much space on the sidewalk, or randomly shaking my head in disgust don’t blame the extreme temperatures. Blame the Martin Luther King Jr. Health Center, especially the one on Ogden Street in the Bronx.

It has taken me an hour to calm down long enough to write this post without the use of expletives, but it took almost as long to dial not 1, not 2, but 5 different phone numbers for a grand total of 16 calls and nearly 4 hours of being on hold or being told to call someone else.

Call 1: 718-466-3222, MLK Health Center on Ogden in the Bronx

A man picked up as the phone rang, a good sign, I thought. I explained that we had an appointment for dental sedation for my special needs son that we needed to reschedule because we would be out of town on the original day. He told me he was finishing up registering a patient and could I hold for a minute. “Of course,” I said. I put my cell on speaker phone and went about my business. Twenty-two minutes later I hung up, frustrated, and redialed.

Call 2: 718-466-3222, Same place, new person

A woman picked up the phone – she sounded like I had woken her up. No matter, I thought, at least it isn’t a recording. I explained that I had been left on hold for a long time and that I was trying to reschedule an appointment for my special needs son. I further explained that I had two small children in addition, and that staying on hold for long periods of time was very difficult, so if she could just give me any new date to come in we would take it. She asked me for the patient’s name. I spelled it for her. “Thank you,” I said. “We are new patients and he needs to be evaluated for sedation because he is so fearful of the dentist.” No response. “I appreciate you doing this.” It sounded like she was singing softly in my ear, wait, I was on hold again!!! It was a sneak attack. I looked at the phone – eight more minutes, gone. I gave it 5 more and hung up, irate.

Call 3: 718-466-3222, Same place, both people

I called back. The woman answered on the second ring. “I think I was put on hold or hung up on,” I started. “I really need to speak with someone about my son’s appointment. His name is -” She put me on hold. HOLD!!!! Almost immediately though, the original guy picked up. “I have a lot of patients here,” he said. “I appreciate that,” I said. “I have a lot of children here, and I really cannot afford to spend all day on hold – it has been 45 minutes already.” “Okay,” the man said. “What is your child’s name?” I gave it to him as he typed away at his keyboard, though for all I know he was drumming his fingers on the desk or clicking his teeth together. “Your son doesn’t have an appointment here,” he said. What?! “He was scheduled at 171st and Grand Concourse. I’ll give you their number, you’ll have to call them to reschedule.” “How can this be?” I asked. “I booked this appointment months ago at this number.” “That can’t be,” he said. “We don’t take appointments for July yet.” He gave me the number and I hung up, fuming.

Call 4: 718-838-1024, MLK Health Center 171st and Grand Concourse?

I called, incredibly frustrated but certain that I had finally been directed to a person who could help me. It seemed even more official because I had to press 1 or 2 a few times to get to the right department. A young girl answered and when I explained the reason for my call, she said, “Oh, you want Pediatrics at Make-You-Feel-Crazy Street. I can give you their number.” No, it wasn’t Make-You-Feel-Crazy Street, but honestly, I didn’t even care. I just wanted to speak with someone, anyone, who could reschedule the appointment. “This has been going on for an hour,” I said tearfully. “Can you please just connect me? I have a special needs child and 2 small children going crazy over here and I just need 2 minutes of time.” She sounded apologetic. “No, but I’m sorry for your trouble.” I hung up, armed with a new number and a new level of frustration.

Calls 5-7: 718-901-4604, who knows, who cares?

The number you have reached is no longer in service….

Call 8: 718-838-1024, MLK Health Center at 171st and Grand Concourse

How could you give me the wrong number? Why are you doing this to me? Is this your idea of a cruel joke? Can’t you tell that I’m on the edge already?

All questions I wanted to shout, but instead I said, “The number is disconnected. Do you have another one?” I was put on hold while the girl confirmed that yes, I did dial correctly and yes, the number was dead. She was very apologetic. I hung up with a new number.

Call 9-16 (so far): 718-838-8402, MLK Center for cruel jokes on overwhelmed mothers of special needs children,  no location specified

Dial this one, I dare you. You will not speak to a living soul in dental. You can get a real live operator by furiously pressing 0 over and over again but she will direct your call to dental, where you can press 1 for English, press 1 to schedule or reschedule an appointment, and then one of three things happens: it rings forever, you get an automated voice message that hangs up on completion (unless you know your party’s extension), or my favorite, you get put on hold for eternity, where all of the people I previously talked to are probably sitting around just laughing (or if you’re that first lady, back to your nap).

Damn you, MLK Health Center, damn you. (I hope nobody is counting damn as an expletive) You have ruined my day. It’s not an exaggeration. I spent from 9-11 and from 3-4:15 on the phone trying to do a very, very simple thing. I wasted cell phone minutes. I wasted time that could have been spent with my kids. I wasted any time I was going to have with my kids occupied so I could have a small break from them today. I was probably less patient with my kids and everyone else today because I was frustrated with the “receptionists” at the MLK Health Center.

And I get to start all over again tomorrow – James’s teeth don’t care if I’m frustrated, and neither does our health insurance (your on my list too, Cigna). Don’t say you haven’t been warned about this place!


It is Friday morning. I have called 718-901-8402 4 times nows since 8:30. The first time I was informed that they did not open until 9:00, so I called back at 9:01. I was put on hold the first two calls, and after 10 minutes disconnected both times. The third time the sympathetic operator gave me a sixth number, 718-901-8136. I am currently on HOLD, and have been for eight minutes. So far, I have wasted another hour and ten minutes of my life. The hold music playing on my speaker phone is a subconscious stress as I try to pleasantly make the kids breakfast, get them dressed and read them books, all while keeping one ear out for a human being to pick up the phone and perform a 90 second task for me.

I think my next task will be to double check with Cigna that this is really my only option. If this is how hard it is to make an appointment, I can’t imagine what the waiting room will be like.